How Artists Who Wholesale Can Consign Strategically

by Carolyn Edlund

There are times when using consignment can be beneficial, even for artists who generally wholesale their work. Here are some scenarios where you might choose to consign your work for certain purposes.


Display of glass vessels at a gallery

Display of glass vessels at an art and craft gallery


If you normally work with wholesale buyers to sell your work, you understand why wholesaling is such a desirable business model. You sell merchandise to retailers outright at a profitable wholesale price. Your studio creates in production, making products that are either identical to samples, or within a design range that has been selected and ordered. Wholesale buyers (who own or manage a store) mark your prices up to retail for the general public, thus gaining a profit for themselves.

Most artists are happy to move from consigning their work to wholesaling. Repeat orders from regular accounts help you grow a sustainable business that produces ongoing income. However, there are occasions where using consignment strategically, even with your regular wholesale accounts, can be a good thing. Here are some of those circumstances:

To gain a relationship with a store

If there is a dream gallery or store that you are dying to work with and you are only able to get your foot in the door through consigning, you might agree to do so for a period of time. Focus future orders on changing the relationship to wholesale.

To introduce a new line into an existing wholesale account

If a wholesale account is doing well with an existing collection of your work, but their buyer is hesitant to increase your display to include a different collection, you might offer to consign the new work temporarily.

For example, you may have a more expensive collection, or one they are not sure will fit perfectly for their customers. This uses consignment for a trial period to allow the store to “try out” the new collection without the commitment. If the consigned merchandise sells well, invoice them for the wholesale cost of the order, thereby switching terms from consignment to wholesale.

To boost your holiday sales

During busy selling seasons, if you will not have retail opportunities, you may want to consign temporarily to get merchandise into stores rather than having it sit in your studio. This is typical during the holiday period after your last retail show is over.

Another example is to consign work temporarily in a “pop-up” shop or at a “boutique” open for a weekend or other short-term period. This use of consignment can add income when you are able to spare the stock, without making a major commitment.

To sell one-offs or discontinued merchandise

You might consign merchandise that is discontinued from your wholesale collection, or one-of-a-kind work that you are not planning to wholesale. Often artists sell this type of merchandise at retail shows, but consignment may be more convenient.

To place an attention-grabbing “showpiece” in the store

You may want to display a large or dramatic piece of your work in a store to capture the eyes of shoppers, with the main intention of selling the lesser expensive but related pieces that are displayed around it. You might agree with a retailer to consign the showpiece especially if it is significantly more expensive and not within their typical budget. If the showpiece sells, it might be time for a conversation with the buyer as to whether they do in fact have a customer for that price point, and might want to purchase the next showpiece at wholesale.



Want to stay current on cutting edge business articles from Artsy Shark, plus artist features, and an invitation to the next Call for Artists? Click below to sign up for our twice-monthly email. You’ll get all this plus opportunities and special offers that you can’t get anywhere else!

Sign Up For Updates!

Speak Your Mind